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Authors: Christine Feehan

Tags: #Fiction, #Paranormal, #Horror, #Vampires, #Love Stories, #Occult & Supernatural, #Occult fiction, #Fantasy, #Romance

Dark Curse (7 page)

BOOK: Dark Curse
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Lara inhaled sharply. Her aunts had told her Carpathians were powerful. They had presented them as heroic, hunters of the vampires, protectors of human and mage alike. She was unprepared for the ruthless, merciless mind of the hunter. And he was beyond any arrogance she'd ever known.

She couldn't prevent the tremor of awareness or the little shiver of fear. The heat of his body enveloped her, warmed her, driving out the cold of the night when she had forgotten to regulate her temperature. She attempted to retreat, slamming down the barriers in her mind. She had always been powerful, but it had been years since she'd had to utilize her abilities to conceal her mind from any other and she was slow and rusty.

"There is no need to hide yourself from me," Nicolas said. Not only was her body shivering, but so was her mind. He had triggered a well of fear, tapping into some long-ago memories of someone close to her who had misused and abused her trust. "I cannot lie to you, nor do I attempt to access what you will not give me freely. I look only for parasites and wounds. The snakes are more deadly than you can know."

She let her breath out, somewhat relieved. He hadn't examined her memories of that lost little girl. He didn't know who she was or what she was. There was always power in knowledge and she trusted no one—least of all the man who could make her body come alive when she had been frozen for so many years. She didn't trust anything that happened so fast, or that walked in an ancient land of enormous power.

"The snakes injected venom into my friend. There were tiny parasitic organisms in the venom and the blood of the snakes burned like acid." As she spoke, she moved away from him, a delicate feminine retreat.

Nicolas wanted to smile. He didn't smile easily. Hadn't smiled in five hundred years, but her girly reaction when she was trying to be a fierce warrior was so cute.
Cute
. He had never understood that word before. He'd heard it a thousand times but had no real concept of the meaning until that moment. Instincts told him she wouldn't appreciate being considered cute when she thought of herself as tough, so he kept his observation to himself.

She was shorter than most Carpathian women, barely coming up to the middle of his chest, but her body was all feminine curves. She considered herself overweight—he'd caught that small bit of information before he narrowed the flow of information to specifics. He didn't understand that either. She was perfect, but then he would have thought her perfect no matter what she had looked like. How could he not? She had restored his life, his very soul. He could feel real love for his brothers. He could feel real honor and a sense of duty to his people. She had turned a bleak, gray world into a dazzling wonderland. She was the epitome of beauty to him with her classic bone structure and the jeweled eyes of the Dragonseeker line.

Power crackled in her. This was no shy, retiring maiden, but a warrior prepared to fight him at every turn. She didn't know he had already won the battle. She was part Carpathian and her nature would draw her to him. The pull between them would grow over time and he would make absolutely certain that he was by her side while time worked its magic on his lifemate.

"Stop staring at me like that." She walked faster.

He kept pace easily. "I had no idea I was staring in any particular way."

There was joy in the night as well as breathtaking beauty. He marveled that he could feel it, see it, be one with it. The heavy clouds formed whimsical shapes, drifting overhead with the helpful push of the wind. The village breathed, hearts beating, children's laughter ringing out. Why hadn't he heard those sounds before? Sounds of life and love. Fathers murmuring, mothers calling, children laughing. He had lost the magic of life over the centuries and now it was there, flooding his senses.

Her eyes flashed at him. Green again. Green was her normal color, a dazzling emerald her red hair made deeper. Glacier blue was her power color then. There was satisfaction in discovering that small fact about her. He wanted to know everything about her all at once, but he had learned long ago the lesson of patience and it had stood him in good stead for hundreds of years. Time would reveal her secrets to him and each moment spent with her—finding out the little things, the intimacies of her true self—would bring joy to him.

He even enjoyed the unrelenting ache she brought to his body. It was another sign of being alive—of living and breathing and sharing his world with her. His soul had been so dark, so damaged, he had been unable to feel emotion, keeping pain at bay and guilt and shame, but it also kept away true life.

"You are a miracle to me. Maybe that is what you are seeing in my stare. Sheer wonder." He kept his expression calm, not allowing his joy to overwhelm her, but he did inject the dark seduction of black velvet into his voice so that it caressed her skin and slid deeper into her body, lighting little electrical sparks from breast to feminine channel.

She stopped so abruptly in the open doorway of the inn he nearly ran into her.

Chapter 3

Lara scowled at Nicolas, her green eyes suddenly suspicious. "Are you a ladies' man? All sweet talk and syrup with no substance? Because I'm telling you right now, I've had experience with that kind of man and I can see right through flattery."

She was lying. Looking him right in the eye and lying her pretty little butt off. She had no experience with men. And she couldn't stop blushing every time she looked at him. The smile started in his mind and spread to his lips. Genuine. Spontaneous. A miracle in itself that he could smile—that he had a reason for smiling.

Nicolas wanted to carry her off to his lair and keep her to himself for a year or two, learning every detail about her. Desire rose sharp and painful. He kept his face without expression. "I do not believe anyone has ever said I talk sweet or that I am syrup in all the years of my existence."

She gave a little undignified snort. "Maybe not, but I'll bet they called you a lady's man."

"I am a Carpathian hunter of great skill but I am certain I will have the necessary skills to become your mate."

She choked and turned away from him, stomping into the inn, her shoulders stiff. Nicolas moved in behind her, very close, aware as they entered that men turned to look at her. She was striking with her skin and hair, the glow many Carpathian women had, a sort of luminous quality combined with a fluid sexy walk that drew the eye. He flashed a message, letting them know without words that she belonged to him. Black eyes carried death as he looked directly at each man to emphasize the point. They looked away from her and two actually left, telling him the vibes he was sending out were just a little too strong. He was going to have to learn to manage his newfound emotions.

Nicolas followed her up the stairs to one of the rooms, taking the stairs two at a time. She reached for the doorknob. Nicolas's hand was there before hers. He inserted his larger body smoothly between her and the room.

"I will go in first." He had already scanned the room. Two unknown human males and Mikhail, prince of his people. Still, even with the prince, he wasn't about to take any chances on her safety. He scented vampire blood.

"It's my room," she objected, shocked at how smoothly, how easily he had taken over.

His black eyes moved over her face. "Yes it is and you seem to have a surplus of male visitors."

He didn't wait for an answer, but pushed open the door, ignoring her outraged little squeak. Mikhail had been fully aware of his arrival, his gaze shooting past him, but Nicolas's much larger body blocked the doorway, preventing Lara from entering. Nicolas took in the scene, the man writhing in pain on the bed. A second man holding his shoulders in hopes to calm him while the prince seemed to be attempting to heal the injuries of the male on the bed. Nicolas stepped aside to allow his lifemate entrance.

"Nicolas," Mikhail stepped forward to clasp both his arms in the traditional greeting of respect and honor between warriors. "It is good to see you." He didn't show the worry he had to be feeling that Nicolas De La Cruz had traveled personally from South America to bring him news. He understood that news couldn't be good or word would have been sent through the chain of Carpathians to their homeland.

"I bring greetings from Zacarias as well as my other brothers. I hope you and your woman are well."

Mikhail nodded. "I sensed a disturbance earlier."

Nicolas didn't change expression, nor did he look away. Of course Mikhail had sensed a disturbance. Nicolas had been close enough to turning that he had nearly taken his own lifemate's life. Fortunately, she had a knife and hadn't hesitated to use it. The blood was gone from Nicolas's shirt, but Mikhail wouldn't be easily fooled.

Nicolas turned to his lifemate. "Mikhail Dubrinsky is the prince of the Carpathian people," Nicolas explained to her before turning back to his prince. "Mikhail, this is
avio päläfertiil
." He put unmistakable possession in his voice even as he rested his hand on the small of her back.

Mikhail bowed slightly from the waist. "I am pleased to meet your lifemate, Nicolas, but what is her name?"

"Her name?" For the first time Nicolas looked bewildered.

"She does have a name, doesn't she?" Mikhail asked, clearly amused.

Nicolas looked down at the bright burst of red-gold hair and those brilliant jeweled green eyes. "What is your name?"

"You tied us together and you don't even know my name," she scoffed, trying to ignore the scent of tainted, rotted blood in the room. "You're absolutely crazy, you know that? It's Lara. Lara Calladine. And you?" Her heart was pounding too hard, knowing her life had changed forever. She couldn't think about it yet, keeping emotion light until she had time to assimilate what had happened and what she could do about it.

His slow smile nearly melted her on the spot, a distraction when the room felt "off" to her.

"Nicolas De La Cruz."

"You're Carpathian." She made it a statement, looking from one man to the other. "You both are." It was difficult to be conversing when she found herself shivering with cold, a little disoriented and slightly sick.

"As are you," Nicolas replied.

Lara shook her head. "Part, but not all."

His eyebrow shot up. "You are of the Dragonseeker lineage. No one could ever mistake your features or your eyes for anything else."

Her heart leapt. "Then you know my aunts? Have you news of them?"

Nicolas wanted to give her good news. The joy and hope on her face was astonishing. "I am sorry,
päläfertiil
, I know only Dominic as full Dragonseeker. There are two females, Natalya, Vikirnoff's lifemate, as well as my brother's lifemate, Colby, who carry Dragonseeker blood. It is a great lineage and one of the most revered in our history."

Lara looked to Mikhail. "Have you heard of my aunts?"

Mikhail shook his head. "I am sorry. I do not know which aunts you speak of. There are no full-blooded women in the Dragonseeker line. Rhiannon was the last and she is lost to us. How are you related?"

She opened her mouth and closed it abruptly. She was part mage. She knew the story of Rhiannon, the last daughter of the Dragonseeker lineage. She had been the lifemate of a great warrior who had been murdered by Xavier, the high mage. Xavier had kept Rhiannon prisoner and alive, forcing her to give birth to his children. The triplets Soren, Tatijana and Branislava were born of the unholy union. Soren had escaped into the world and joined with a human woman. He had two children, Razvan and Natalya. Lara's father was Razvan. She was a direct descendent of the Carpathian's worst enemy, the man who had betrayed their trust and started a war that ultimately had led to the near extinction of mage and Carpathian alike. Her mother had been mage, so mage blood ran strong in her, along with the Dragonseeker blood.

Lara shifted her gaze to Terry, who lay on the bed moaning and rocking back and forth. She forced herself to look at him when she wanted to run. She had seen young mages who had been deliberately injected with the parasites rotting from the inside out. The scent of death was already oozing from his pores.

She cleared her throat. "Were you able to clear his blood of the parasites?"

Terry's body jerked and he focused on her face. "Lara. You're back. It hurts like hell. What do you mean parasites?"

"The right leg is easy enough," Mikhail said out loud, "but the left is giving me a few problems." He glanced toward Nicolas, using the common telepathic path used by the Carpathian people.
She did not answer my question
.

Lara stiffened. They were communicating on the path her aunts used with her. She had always thought that there had been a chance she made the aunts up. That the trauma of her childhood had produced a break and she had created an imaginary world for herself, but there was no way the prince and Nicolas could communicate on that
exact
band.

She is not here to be interrogated
. Nicolas's tone was mild, but he shifted subtly, placing his body between Lara and the prince.

A flicker of amusement showed in Mikhail's eyes and then was gone as he turned back to the writhing man on the bed.

"He pulled the snake head out before I could stop him. The snake's fangs are curved with barbs at the ends. I think the barbs carry the venom and when he ripped them loose, he allowed the poison to pour into his system." She glanced toward Nicolas and used their private mental path.
It seems a little rude to be discussing me when I'm standing right here, but thanks for sticking up for me
.

BOOK: Dark Curse
2.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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